China sees its first legal dispute over virtual humans

Hangzhou Internet Court in China’s Zhejiang province recently ruled on a case involving virtual human intellectual property, marking the first of such cases in China. 

Xmov Technology, a company headquartered in Shanghai with branches in Suzhou, Hangzhou, and the US, created their own virtual human Ada in 2019. Supported by AI motion capture and 5G network transmission, Ada’s interactions are driven in real time by human actors. She was debuted via live broadcast at the Qingdao Journalist Festival in November 2019 and Xmov shared footage from the stream on China’s YouTube equivalent Bilibili.  

Later, in July 2022, an unnamed technology company based in Hangzhou, included footage of Ada in a video posted to their Douyin account, but did not credit Xmov as the creators.

Xmov claimed the Douyin video constituted false publicity as it included a different company’s log on the Ava content. They also claimed it infringed upon their rights as content creators. Hangzhou Internet Court ruled in favour of Xmov, with the infringing company asked to pay 500,000 RMB (72,337 USD) in damages.  

As of yet there are no specific laws in China pertaining to the protection of virtual human intellectual property.

However, the State Council issued a five-year plan to further intellectual property rights during this year’s Two Sessions, which is expected to encompass virtual humans and other new technologies. China’s Cyberspace Administration has also acknowledged the need for more legal oversight of AI technologies, publishing a host of draft regulations for public comment in April.  

With more high-profile brands launching virtual influencers, this case in Zhejiang sets a precedent for the recognition of AI-generated content and products as unique intellectual property.  


Join our newsletter